By: Gabriela Yareliz
NOTE: This is a character and movie analysis so: Spoiler Alert.
Yash Chopra made his last film a deeply religious one. I don’t know if this reflects a belief he had close to the time of his death, or a philosophy or vision of God questioned or clung to. Perhaps it was a conflict within himself, or one he saw first hand. I guess we won’t know, but in my opinion the film’s main impact was caused by Meera.
Prior to watching Jab Tak Hai Jaan, I had seen some interviews of the cast talking about their characters. Katrina Kaif was talking about Meera, her character, and how she didn’t identify with her, and she said it was hard to do things on screen that she would never do as herself. Strangely, I am not a fan of Katrina Kaif as herself, but I tend to really like her roles.
In this film, I thought I would absolutely be charmed by Akira, Anushka Sharma’s character–yet the one I really identified with was Meera. It is one of the most complex characters I have ever seen portrayed. Layers and layers. Many people, when talking about Meera, paint her as overly religious and a bit crazy. However, I see where she is coming from and thought it was so incredibly well done, yet complex all the same.
Complex is definitely the word to describe Meera’s character.
We see Meera at the beginning as clean, good, innocent, obedient and modest. She is quite the negotiator. At one point, she tells God she is going to be introduced to a young man, and she prays to God that the guy won’t like her, and then promises that if this happens she will give up fur coats. She spends time at the church praying to Jesus and trying to make “deals” (for lack of a better word) with Him. She promises to give up vices and negative things in her life, if her prayer is answered, and so she lives keeping her promises to God and obtaining favor (or at least that is how it is illustrated).
It is because of Meera, that religion is a central theme, and Jesus is a symbol throughout the film. I never liked her negotiating ways with God, for the Bible itself says God does not owe us anything. However, sometimes, when you want something bad enough and you pray, you are not a stranger to the feeling. This strange internal feeling that surges at times when we want to show how serious we are about something by promising to give up something else that means a lot to us. Promising things to God is a very serious matter, so this is a tricky element in the film. However, something I like is she speaks to God in a way that shows she feels they are partners in crime. Friends.
When she would go to the church, she reminded me of Hannah, the barren wife of Elkanah, who asks God for a son and promises that if He gives her the son, she will dedicate him to the Lord. The film depicts prayer as something powerful, which is something I completely agree with.
Anyway, along with the story: Meera finds Samar and asks him to help her learn a Punjabi song for her father’s birthday, and of course–they fall in love. Meera finds herself at a cross, a place where not disappointing her father is the most important thing (he has a nice boy picked out for her), and a part of herself she never knew emerges.
As she falls in love with Samar; something in her is awakened, and she is never the same.
She then drags Samar to a church, so they can both promise God they won’t cross the line of friendship.
She ultimately fails to not cross that line. She does it in a moment where she learns about love and her mother’s love story. It is one of Meera’s most human moments in the film. She goes from being an unattainable Madonna type to someone who loves intensely, despite the love’s flaws. She decides to go all in.
After being completely lost in their love, Samar has an accident; she feels responsible. She feels that by breaking the promise she made, she brought the ill fortune upon Samar.
As he is on the street unconscious, she prays to God to save Samar, and promises that if He does, then she will give up what is of most value to her: Samar himself.
She mentions at some point that to obtain something you really want, you must give up something too.
Samar’s life is saved. The whole movie turns on this point.
Samar gets angry with her when she tells him her promise. She tells him, what I think is one of the most meaningful dialogue lines in the entire script, that he might think she is crazy, but that her belief is real to her, and it’s so strong no one can take it from her.
Samar’s anger consumes him for the rest of his life as he continues to decide to embrace death each day by being on a bomb defusing squad, because life without Meera is like death itself. He believes that if he dies, Meera’s belief will end. God never lets him die.
Meera’s belief is so strong it keeps her away from Samar for a decade. Of course Yash Chopra redeems the vision of God in the film by making the point that God saved Samar’s life so that he could be happy with Meera, not so that they could deprive themselves of love. The premise is, Love has its time.
When one’s belief in God is so strong, I believe it becomes almost like a wedding. When you promise something to God or make some sort of commitment to Him, its like you promise to forsake all others for Him; to be obedient to Him.
So while others see Meera as crazy, I understand her devotion and promise. The complexity arrives at the point of love. God is love. Meera and Samar loved each other so much (of course this is a movie, but I have heard of such exceptional stories in real life), neither got married or chose another. To what extent does God’s love reflect on human love? Does such a love exist, or are people too selfish these days to even fathom abstaining from something unless they get who it is they want? Is remaining alone because of “uncompleted”/”unreciprocated” love foolish? Why do Indian movies revolve around love when so many people simply choose who they marry and learn to love later?
The complexity between love and belief has captivated my little mind. I like to believe that there is a providential love that God orchestrates and puts His faith in.
I think Meera deserves more credit. She is not the only one in the world who prays. She is not the only one in the world who loves.
Who knows how the world works? Well, God does.
He knows the intricacies in human hearts. The heart is deceitful above all things, so it has been said. At the same time, love is the most powerful force in the world.
God is love. God bows in the face of love when He shows us the ultimate expression of His love, freedom to choose. There are people who come into our hearts, and they stay, forever.
Love is complicated, but I do believe that when it is felt, it is known by every atom of one’s being.
EDIT: Maybe I don’t know exactly how to talk about the complexity of the film’s focus, but I wanted to address the things that made me think. What I do understand is her devotion and “strong belief,” and how it shaped her choices. I also identify with Yash Chopra’s belief of providential love withstanding time.
Akira ends the film saying, “Love that breaks you but still keeps you together;
love that creates distances but still brings you closer.
Love that is true and forever.
And I learned that if you have the power to love like that,
then God makes sure that your love finds its way.”